Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo has already broken one record in this year’s Champions League but against Juventus in their quarterfinal return Wednesday he can edge closer to beating a bigger milestone of his own.
Ronaldo’s bicycle kick in Real Madrid’s 3-0 first leg victory last week ensured he passed Ruud van Nistelrooy’s feat by scoring in 10 consecutive Champions League games. But the Portugese also now stands just three goals short of his best-ever tally in a single European campaign, an achievement that would suggest this Ronaldo, aged 33, may even be the finest version yet. His 14 goals so far have come over nine matches and featured doubles against APOEL, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.
It means this is Ronaldo’s third most prolific Champions League showing to date already and, with Real Madrid almost certain to reach the semifinals he is unlikely to finish here. When Ronaldo posted 16 goals in the 2015-16 tournament and his personal best of 17 in 2013-14, both times Real were crowned champions.
“Cristiano is Cristiano, it’s always been like that,” coach Zinedine Zidane had said after the Atletico Madrid game played Sunday. “There’s no other player in the team that scores like he does.”
Zidane withdrew his star player in the 64th minute last weekend, despite the match being delicately poised at 1-1 after Antoine Griezmann’s equaliser. Ronaldo going off early in a Madrid derby, without any protest, is a measure of how the Champions League is now all-encompassing for Los Blancos.
“He is intelligent,” Zidane said about Ronaldo’s substitution. “There are moments where he does not play and others where he does. He needs it, he knows that and he is better every day.”